My last blog talked about how common anxiety is around the menopause and how women often don’t realise that hormonal changes can be the underlying cause for their anxious symptoms (you can read it here). Let’s move on to what we can do to relieve anxiety. What can you do when you’re feeling anxious? How can you calm your mind and stop anxiety overwhelming you?
Here are my top tips for easing anxiety in the peri-menopause:
Understand it. Read about it, listen to podcasts, talk to other women. The more you understand what’s going on in your body, the more informed you feel. This can really help you feel in control.
Tackle it positively. Anxiety is a horrible feeling but there are things you can do to ease it. Approaching it with a positive mind set and a problem solving head, will help you through.
Reduce anxiety-inducing drinks and food. Caffeine is known to produce the same jitteriness and increased heart rate as anxiety. Reducing or cutting out caffeine can help hugely if you’re someone who always has a cup in hand. (I recently blogged about my experiences of giving up caffeine). During the peri-menopause, you may find you are less tolerant of caffeine but also of alcohol and possibly high sugar loads too. Keep a track of how they make you feel and cut down accordingly.
Identify stressors. Sadly we can’t make all our stress go away but we can be pro-active in trying to reduce it where possible by delegating, asking for help and being a bit creative. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel you are coping as well as you normally would, doing the best you can is enough.
Look for patterns. See if there is a cyclical pattern to your anxiety. Is it linked to certain times of the month? You may no longer have regular menstrual bleeds but you may still find there’s a pattern and times when you feel more robust. This will help you to plan the best time to tackle things such as tricky work tasks or difficult conversations.
Seek and practice relaxation. Find what calms and relaxes you. Often it may just be finding something that absorbs you and distracts you from your anxiety such as playing a musical instrument, baking or drawing, whatever you enjoy (if you’re stuck for ideas, then think of what you used to enjoy when you were a child). The buzz word is being ‘present’ – focusing fully on what you are doing at that moment in time. The next level is trying relaxation techniques or meditation to clear your mind. Even simply taking slow deep breaths can be calming. There are plenty of apps to help you with this.
Get outside. Nature is known to have a calming effect, especially if you can walk in woodland or by rivers. Even time in your own outdoor space or looking at the sky can help. Try and get outside every day and consider it a rescue remedy if anxiety starts to feel overwhelming.
Exercise. Physical activity is well known to reduce the effects of anxiety. It might be that a slow walk in a green space or some gentle yoga calms your mind or it could be a blast of feel-good and calming brain chemicals that flood your body after a vigorous work out. It works and it’s free.
Nourish your body. Get back to the basics of maximising your sleep and eating well. Fresh, unprocessed foods and cooking from scratch are best but you have to be realistic about what you can manage on your budget and in your busy life so just make small changes and do your best.
These are simple, lifestyle things that we can all do. If these aren’t sufficient to ease your symptoms or anxiety is having a detrimental effect on your daily life, then it’s time to visit your GP. HRT can be life-changing for some women. There are some situations where anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications will be appropriate too but HRT is first line for these symptoms if they’re resulting from the peri-menopause.
I’ve made a couple of videos for IGTV on this topic and my own experiences so join me there if you’d like to watch.
Coffee image: Gratisography